Nagourney Takes a Double-Dip of Conservative Angst Over Sotomayor

Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney recycled his web-only column from Tuesday afternoon for his Thursday print edition story, complete with a headline portraying the GOP as in a lose-lose bind overObama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court- "For Republicans, Court Fight Risks Losing Hispanics to Win Conservatives." The text box read: "Some warn that opposing Sotomayor could be politically devastating." As he did Tuesday Nagourney painted conservative efforts to portray Sotomayor (accurately) as liberal as some kind ofdubious political tactic:

President Obama's selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for a seat on the Supreme Court has put the Republican Party in a bind, forcing it to weigh the cost of aggressively opposing the first Hispanic named to the court against its struggle to appeal to Hispanic voters.

The Republican Party has been embroiled in a public argument over whether to tend to the ideological interests of its conservative base or to expand its appeal to a wider variety of voters to regain its strength after the defeats of 2008. Many conservative activists and political strategists came out fiercely against Judge Sotomayor as soon her name was announced, denouncing her as liberal and promising Mr. Obama a tough nomination fight.


But some Republicans warned that the image of the party's throwing a roadblock before a historic nomination could prove politically devastating. Republicans saw a dip in Hispanic support in 2008, after eight years in which President George W. Bush and his political aides made a concerted effort to increase the Republican appeal to Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing group of voters.

"If Republicans make a big deal of opposing Sotomayor, we will be hurling ourselves off a cliff," said Mark McKinnon, who was a senior adviser to Mr. Bush and has long advocated expanding the party's appeal. "Death will not be assured. But major injury will be."

This time around, Nagourney at least devoted a couple of paragraphs to the plight of Republican nominee Miguel Estrada, who was nominated by Bush in May 2001 to be the first Hispanic, on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, only to be left to dangle before finally withdrawing his nomination in September 2003. But Nagourney failed to mention the ethnic aspect to the Democrat's opposition, shown in leaked memos indicating liberal groups were pushing Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to filibuster Estrada because "he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment."

Still, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and member of the Judiciary Committee, noted that Democrats had used a filibuster to block the confirmation of Miguel Estrada, a Washington lawyer nominated by Mr. Bush to be the first Hispanic on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Senate Democrats who considered Mr. Estrada too conservative blocked his nomination after he refused to answer questions about his judicial philosophy at his confirmation hearing.

Mr. Grassley said that since Democrats had not paid a price among Hispanic groups for opposing Mr. Estrada, Republicans should not be held to a different standard if they opposed Judge Sotomayor.

Nagourney made an unbalanced presentation, emphasizing "conservative" opposition but failing to term Sotomayor aliberal.

The conflicting pressures became clear as conservative groups came out against Judge Sotomayor even before she appeared with Mr. Obama at the White House on Tuesday morning. From the start, conservative leaders have made clear that they view the prospect of an ideologically charged nomination fight as a way to revive a movement that is lagging in spirits and money.